What Are We Fighting to Preserve?
I teach the auditorium class during Bible study on Sunday mornings, and we’ve been studying the book of Acts. I’ve tried to cover one chapter per week this way we’re not too deep and technical but also not overlooking significant points. For the past few weeks, we have looked at Paul’s departure from Ephesus to Jerusalem, and are looking to his journey to Rome. This and last weeks lessons (chs. 22–23) have centered on Paul’s trials before the Jews. In chapter twenty-two, Paul gave a defense before those present in the Temple. After providing a well-articulated apology of his Christianity, they still sought to take his life. This week in chapter twenty-three, he defended himself before the Sanhedrin before being sent to Felix. Again, his life is sought by Jews after his defense.
When we look at this as a whole, we must ask why they are so intent on taking Paul’s life. He has preached the gospel and wrought miracles which testified to the accuracy of his message. One theory that I proposed today was that it all boiled down to the economy. Since the Jewish Temple levied a tax upon the Jews, hosted money changers on the grounds, and received tithes and offerings, many people had an economic concern that Paul’s preaching of the gospel would render the temple, its priests, sacrifices, and functions null and no longer needed. This, while true, threated the economy of Israel and those who depended on the temple’s purpose for their livelihood. Ergo, the Jews were protecting a system rather than the accepting truth.
We as Christians can become as guilty as they were by trying to protect systems and customs which have no relation whatsoever to sound doctrine. For example:
- Visual aids—when we open our songbooks, we see shape notes for those versed in reading music. Once upon a time, this was controversial in our fellowship. Some also have in years past criticized powerpoint projectors as “unauthorized” or “unscriptural.” Before powerpoint, preachers might have used felt boards or sermon sheets. Yet, some have sought to protect a system by negating things that we now view as foolish matters.
- We must be careful that we do not become guilty of protecting a system that has no relation to sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is worth preserving and advocating, but we must ask whether what we fight to maintain is related to sound doctrine. If not, we can and should just say that we don’t like thus and such rather than attributing to it the status of doctrinal.
Too often, outspoken brethren think they are preserving sound doctrine when they’re actually preserving something that they have adhered to in a matter of opinion or liberty. What are we really fighting to protect? Interpretations? Traditions? Such are subject to scrutiny because they are arrived at by fallible humans. Criticising such has nothing to do with slamming the church despite the wails of many preachers who see it differently.